Health Mental health How to beat loneliness this Christmas Facing a lonely holiday? You're not the only one. Not everyone has plans over Christmas, and for LGBTQ+ people whose family relationships can be strained, the holiday can be a lonely time. There's no shame in having a less-than-packed festive schedule, but it's important to remain busy, and ensure you're giving yourself the care and contact you need to keep yourself mentally healthy. Below are a few things you can do stave off loneliness this Christmas, and have a happier holiday. Community events Most places are shut on Christmas day but there are a few organisations out there putting on events aimed at the LGBTQ+ community. For instance, The OUTside Project is holding a Community Christmas day which offers games, quiet space, as well as advice and support services. Try searching for events in your local area run by an LGBTQ+ charity, or community organisation. Volunteer! Volunteering over the Christmas break is a great way to keep yourself connected with others while also providing a vital service to people who need it. Whether you're helping out at a homeless shelter or spending time with older people, there are tonnes of valuable organisations that need your help. Time spent volunteering gives your day structure, and lends you a sense of purpose over the holiday, as well as providing face to face time with a wide variety of wonderful people. You might even make some friends. It's a win-win. When thinking about where you're going to volunteer, try and focus on causes that matter to you, or would be easy for you to make the commitment (is nearby for instance). Grab a pooch With the advent of sites like borrowmydoggy.com, it's now possible to have canine companionship without owning your own pet. Dogs are great for your mental health, providing unconditional affection and jolity. Looking after a dog for an afternoon can give your day structure, ensure you leave the house, and release some of the feelgood chemicals your brain needs over Christmas. Also don't be afraid to ask friends or neighbours if they'd mind you tagging along on their walks or dog-sitting at some point over the holiday. Let friends know in advance It can be hard to admit to other people that you'll be lonely over Christmas, whether you're young or old. Yet you'd probably be surprised to know that it's far more common than you'd think, with literally hundreds of thousands of people across the country facing the same predicament. By telling people in your life that you might need help, they can plan ahead and lend support. You'd be surprised at how many people will come home a day early to spend more time with you, or will make extra effort to pick up the phone and text regularly over Christmas. Get out, treat yourself It's best to say goodbye to the four walls of your home (assuming you have a home this Christmas, if not, please go here) at least once a day over the holiday. Going to the shops is a nice idea, but making the trip special, and something you might actually enjoy, could be even better. Excluding Christmas Day, restaurants, cinemas, and special attractions will probably be open as usual, so try treating yourself. Exercise We're something of a broken record on this one, but that's because it works! Exercise is amazing for your mental health, whether you enjoying the great outdoors for a wintry run or taking a somewhat more forgiving dip in a warm swimming pool. Keeping active is incredibly important if you're feeling depressed or alone, as is a change of scenery. It’s been proven that a brisk 20 minute walk can do wonders to clear your head. Use apps and social media thoughtfully Some people find that social media can stave off loneliness and make them feel connected, but its becoming increasingly clear that for lots of people, its also a damaging force. If you're alone at Christmas, then scrolling through endless pictures of Christmas dinners and presents might, we'd suggest, make you feel even worse. Consider putting a lock on apps like Instagram and Facebook, and limiting yourself to WhatsApp for more personal conversations with your mates. Or, you could try and ensure you're surrounded by positive, inclusive conversations on social media by getting involved with the #joinin hashtag on Twitter, which has been going for six years and lets you chat to other people in the same situation. When it comes to dating apps, the choice is also yours. Some people enjoy their conversations (and even some festive sex) through apps like Grindr and PoF over Christmas, but others find it can be the first step toward behaviours like chems use. Stay aware of what makes you feel better, and what affects your mental wellbeing. Call a support line If none of the above are an option for you (and even if they are) a few LGBTQ+ charities are keeping their phone lines open over Christmas. Call them up if you're struggling and you'll hear a friendly voice at the other end of the line. Lines listed below. What Next? Call Switchboard Switchboard runs a free phone-in service 100% staffed by LGBTQ+ volunteers. Whatever your situation, they'll talk to you about how you're feeling, and maybe, help you find the support your need. They're open from 10am-10pm throughout the holiday (including Christmas day). Call them on 0300 330 0630. Call LGBT Foundation LGBT Foundation runs an advice and support line that will also remain open over Christmas. You can call it on 0345 3 30 30 30. Call Samaritans Like Samaritans says, "it's ok to not be ok, even at Christmas time". The Samaritans help line will remain open over Christmas to listen to you, no matter the problem. It's open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Call them on 116 123 (UK) 116 123 (ROI).